For if I pray in tongues, my spirit is praying, but I don't understand what I am saying.
Well then, what shall I do? I will pray in the spirit, and I will also pray in words I understand. I will sing in the spirit, and I will also sing in words I understand.
For if you praise God only in the spirit, how can those who don't understand you praise God along with you? How can they join you in giving thanks when they don't understand what you are saying?
You will be giving thanks very well, but it won't strengthen the people who hear you.
I thank God that I speak in tongues more than any of you.
But in a church meeting I would rather speak five understandable words to help others than ten thousand words in an unknown language. (1 Cor 14:14-19)
Wow normal praying outnumbers tongues 1 : 2,000 or literally 5 :10,000. Now don’t go making much of that. Paul is just putting a figure on it to illustrate his point. You read above: He said “I would rather speak five understandable words than ten thousand words in an unknown language”. But did you catch the context? IN A CHURCH MEETING! There is a difference between the public and the private use of tongues. The charismatically inclined may say that proves you should use your tongue way more than praying normally. “For every 5 words spoken in your mother tongue you should speak 10,000 words in tongues.” No Paul is not saying that either. He is simply saying, in a public setting it is better to speak in words that are understandable. Use the gift of tongues to edify or strengthen yourself. But speak understandable words in church to strengthen those who hear you.
It is clear there is to be a public and a private use of the gift of tongues. When tongues are used in church there should be an interpretation. If none comes then pray that you who spoke out in tongues would be the one to interpret. Or keep quiet. In other words Paul is saying be circumspect and sensitive about your use of tongues in the congregation. I suspect the Corinthians were doing what many churches do today – allowing or encouraging the unlimited use of tongues. Paul says for tongues to be effective in church it ought to come with an interpretation. But he still encourages the use of tongues. Where? Privately. It appears that there are two kinds of tongues. Tongues ought to be used to privately for your own edification or in praying for others – your prayer language. If tongues are used in church it ought to be interpreted.
Paul encourages us to pray in tongues and to sing in tongues. Paul encourages us to pray with understanding (with words; normal language) and to sing with understanding. Be balanced; do both. And do them in the right context. It is interesting too that Paul doesn’t say anything about the singing of tongues needing to be interpreted. I have met some people who insist that singing in tongues doesn’t have to be interpreted because Paul didn’t say that. Well again, take the spirit of what he said and one could infer that he intended that too.
There is much more to be said. I will leave my extra comments to see if this topic touches a spot and many respond. If that happens I will add more. Suffice to say at this point, one of the most powerful ways I use my tongue is in praying. I know with a deep inner knowing that using my spiritual gift of tongues is a powerful way the Holy Spirit uses to pray through me for others. You already know I have experienced a time when the Holy Spirit took over after I started praying in tongues and interceded for me and through me in a very powerful way. (See Bible Gem 197) There are many other times I can be praying for someone and sense to pray for them in tongues. I sense a burden there that I know nothing about. When I pray for them in tongues I feel the Holy Spirit prays in ways I could not do. I feel the essence of their problem is being addressed in prayer but I don’t know the details. I like that. It adds a confidential dimension to the prayer that is good. God can deal with the issues they face in a confidential way using me but I don’t need to know the details. Just that something significant happened in prayer for them. Now that is good.
Now I am sure this opens up all sorts of questions and side issues. From this point I will be guided by your (plural) responses as to whether I continue with this section and getting into more discussion on this aspect or not. There is much more I could say. I have had a wealth of experience over the years in working through my understanding of this aspect – both in the wacky and out-of-balance comments and practises and in working out what I believe to be the truth on the matter. But of course it is all thus Ian says; not the Lord. Paul does make it clearer that what he has written in this segment.
Be balanced, especially in the use of tongues in church. Remember the gifts are given to manifest God in the midst of His people and to build up of the body. Don’t forget that principle. There is much more to say. I will wait for tomorrow to see if I say anymore or not. It will depend on you. Feel free to ask questions if you wish. I will be guided by the nature and depth of the questions or input. Here is another chance to have your say or ask your questions. I try to give you these opportunities from time to time. I guess I might have put some of you off with sharing some people’s questions or input from time to time. Normally without names, once I did include a person’s name. I will protect your anonymity.
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